Reports: ISIS declares war on Taliban in Afghanistan
An ISIS commander in Afghanistan has reportedly declared war on Taliban, calling the latter "hypocrites and stooges of the unbelievers." ISIS has accused Taliban militants of betraying Islam and said they should be killed and their property should be seized, according to Iran's Tasnim news agency. The statement highlights the growing animosity between the two militant organizations as they compete for influence in Afghanistan.
How ISIS emerged in Afghanistan
ISIS first emerged in Afghanistan in 2015 and its popularity is growing as it pays more than Taliban. A US official said there are around 600 to 800 ISIS fighters in Afghanistan. ISIS is believed to have has emerged from disgruntled former members of Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The Taliban fiercely opposes ISIS and has clashed with it.
Why ISIS and Taliban are fighting in Afghanistan
Both ISIS and Taliban are trying to oust Afghanistan's US-backed government and impose their fundamentalist version of Islamic law. However, both militant organizations remain bitterly divided over leaderships and tactics. The Taliban is more of an Afghanistan-specific nationalistic insurgency, while ISIS hopes to establish a larger caliphate encompassing several countries. The differences have led to violent clashes between both sides.
ISIS captured 2 districts from Taliban in April following clashes
In April 2017, ISIS militants attacked Taliban fighters in Afghanistan's northern Jawzjan province causing heavy casualties. The attack left 76 Taliban fighters and 15 ISIS militants dead. Jawzjan's governor Mohammad Reza Ghafori said ISIS had captured two districts from Taliban. The fighting that reportedly took place in a remote area didn't lead to any civilian casualties.
ISIS battles Taliban for control of bin Laden's cave hideout
On 15th June, ISIS had announced that it had captured the infamous Tora Bora mountain hideout of slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. However, the Taliban has dismissed ISIS' claims, saying it maintains control over bin Laden's cave complex. The Taliban said its forces have repelled ISIS militants from some territory it had overrun.
What the ISIS-Taliban turf war means for Afghanistan
The worsening ISIS-Taliban conflict complicates Afghanistan's already complex security mix. The conflict increases possibility of innocent civilians being caught in the crossfire. It also represents another component that may hinder the long-term quest for an everlasting peace agreement between the Afghan government and insurgents.